Blackwood Earns First Career Shutout; Devils Beat Hurricanes 2-0

It’s been a long time.

The Devils had not strung together back-to-back wins since November 13 and 15. Back then, they beat Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Today, they notched their second straight win after beating Boston on Thursday. They beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 on Kid’s Day at Prudential Center behind a spectacular performance from goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, a shorthanded goal from Pavel Zacha and a timely bit of luck.

The Devils are still without Taylor Hall, which makes this run of two games even more improbable to an extent. They are also missing Marcus Johansson and Cory Schneider, who according to Erika Wachter of MSG+, have started skating but remain on injured reserve. Joey Anderson remains on IR but has started off-ice workouts.

Mirco Mueller and Egor Yakovlev were the healthy scratches for New Jersey.

One other bit of business from the Boston game on Thursday is that the Bruins’ David Backes has received supplemental discipline for his illegal check to the head of Blake Coleman. Because he is a repeat offender, he was fined over $200,000 and will be banned for three games. That will include the New Year’s Day Winter Classic game for Boston as well.

That win in Boston was the Devils’ first since October 26, 2013 according to an MSG+ graphic and the Devils were looking to build on that game. One of their stars from that contest was Mackenzie Blackwood. He made a back-to-back start in this game, going today as well. He was brilliant. He stopped all 37 shots Carolina threw his way. But he also got some luck. The Canes had seemingly tied things up at one with an extra attacker on with 1:58 to go in the game. However, the goal was immediately waved off on the ice with the explanation of incidental goalie interference by Carolina’s Justin Williams. The contact through the crease was negligible, but he did bump into Blackwood’s stick.

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour used his coach’s challenge to have this one overturned but the call was upheld when Toronto looked at it. It was just too much contact (albeit, as I said, negligible) to overturn the call. The Devils would get through that “storm” and Andy Greene emphatically slapped the puck into the empty net with 32 seconds left in the game to make it 2-0 Devils, which was our final.

For the Canes, journeyman Curtis McElhinney was between the pipes. He was equally good and stopped 28 of 29 Devils shots. With the empty netter, the Devils finsihed the game being outshot by Carolina 37-30.

The game winner came shorthanded off the stick of Zacha unassisted. That was set up when John Quenneville took a penalty for tripping Trevor van Riemsdyk at 17:26. With 36 seconds to go in the second period and two on the penalty, Zacha scored when he chipped an intercepted pass up ice and chased it. He shot and McElhinney made the initial save before Zacha chipped the rebound over McElhinney’s shoulder and top shelf to make it 1-0 Devils.

Special teams-wise, the Devils kept the Hurricanes 0-for-5 on the power play with five shots. Carolina also had two shorthanded shots. On the Devils’ side of the ledger, they went 0-for-3 on the power play with seven total shots but also added three shorthanded shots, one of which they scored on, as noted.

One scary moment was early in the game when linesman Tim Nowak was hit in the elbow by a puck and seemed injured enough for the Devils’ trainer to come out and look at him. He stayed in the game and continued officiating, showing that it takes the toughest of the tough to make a hockey game go.

For the Devils, statistically, they won 52-percent of the faceoffs but got out hit 20 to 11. The Canes also had more blocked shots (16 to 13) and less giveaways (nine to three).

Greene led all Devils’ skaters in ice time (25:13) which included 8:44 killing penalties. Travis Zajac led the forwards with 21:33 total (3:39 on the PP and 5:13 on the PK). Kyle Palmieri and Zacha led in shots with four each, Miles Wood and Will Butcher led in hits with two each, Sami Vatanen led in blocked shots with four and Ben Lovejoy led in takeaways with two.

Next up, the Devils will have a 1 PM matinee on New Year’s Eve at Prudential Center against the Vancouver Canucks. We will see you then and hope you join us later for a little bit of World Junior update. See you then!

Day Two of the 2019 World Juniors

Day two of the 2019 World Junior Championship featured three games directly related to Devils prospects. Sweden downed Slovakia 5-2, Canada edged by Switzerland 3-2 and, in the night cap, Finland got by Kazakhstan 5-0.

The Swedish game in Victoria saw Fabian Zetterlund finish with two penalty minutes (a too many men on the ice bench minor that he served) and a plus-1 plus/minus rating all in 15:26 of ice time. Zetterlund and the Swedes will next take on the US on December 29.

Back in Vancouver, the Canadians and Ty Smith were facing off with Akira Schmid and the Swiss. Schmid fended off 29 of the Canadians’ 32 shots on goal. He was able to keep the Swiss in a game that might have given them some trouble ala Denmark. Instead, it was a much closer game than the Canadians had possibly anticipated deep down.

For the Canadians, Smith had two shots on goal in 15:48 of ice time. He did not lead the Canadians in ice time tonight, but matchups and the game situations will dictate that.

Next up for Switzerland, they take on Denmark on December 29 in a battle of the two lower teams in Group A. Canada will take on the Czech Republic on Saturday as well.

In the Finland-Kazakhstan game, Aarne Talvitie scored the Finn’s second goal of the game and ended with the goal, two shots on net and a plus-2 rating in 9:54 of total ice time.

The real story of this game was the Kazakhstan goalie, however. Demid Yeremeyev made 31 saves in an onslaught from the Finns. The crowd in Victoria, though, fell in love with his effort and were thoroughly cheering for the Kazakhstan team by the end of the game. He won them over and became a pure fan favorite in one of the moments of the tournament so far.

Finland will next take on the Slovaks on Saturday. So, we have a full slate of games on Saturday including Denmark versus Switzerland, Slovakia versus Finland, Canada versus the Czech Republic and Sweden versus the United States. We will have coverage of what happened in each game right here following the Devils-Hurricanes game.

Blackwood Earns First NHL Victory as Devils Roll Over Boston, 5-2

For the first time this season (in the final road game of the 2018 calendar year, no less), someone not named Keith Kinkaid earned a win for the Devils between the pipes. That man was Mackenzie Blackwood and he had a pretty good night. The Devils beat the Bruins up in Boston 5-2.

It has not been easy for the Devils at TD Garden the last few years. The Bruins were 12-1-0 in the last 13 games between the two teams up in Beantown according to a graphic on the MSG+ pregame show, but they earned the victory tonight.

Things did not look too good for New Jersey with the announcement prior to the game that Taylor Hall would not be playing tonight. The team practiced in Newark this morning before flying up to Boston and Hall had a re-occurrence of the lower body injury that kept him out of some games a few weeks ago prior to the Christmas break. He is now day-to-day according to Erika Wachter.

Jesper Bratt moved into Hall’s spot on the top line with Kyle Palmieri and Nico Hischier while Stefan Noesen was back in the lineup to take his place on the roster. Noesen had not played since December 9 at Anaheim. Mirco Mueller and Egor Yakovlev were the healthy scratches. One other transaction made was John Quenneville. He was actually sent back down to Binghamton just prior to the Christmas break and was recalled yesterday. For the B’s, Zdeno Chara was making his first appearance since November 14, as he had been out with a knee injury.

One Devil really excited for this game was Brett Seney. The former Merrimack College player had some 30 friends and family at the game. He was playing in his first game at TD Garden, something he did not get to do even in college.

The goalie matchup saw Jaroslav Halak go for the B’s as the former Islander made 28 saves on 32 Devils shots against. The Devils finished the game with 33 shots, since they added an empty netter later on in the game. As mentioned, Mackenzie Blackwood was the star of the show for the Devils. He stopped 40 of 42 Bruins shots and was named the game’s first star. As Ken Daneyko pointed out on the MSG+ post game show, it is a bit auspicious that a Devils goalie, wearing number 29 should get his first win against the Bruins. Martin Brodeur got his first win in the NHL against the Bruins back in 1992 wearing… number 29!

The Devils got the scoring started early as Damon Severson became the sixth defenseman in team history to score 30 seconds or less into a game. He did it 25 seconds in off assists from Andy Greene and Travis Zajac. It happened when Zajac got the puck to a pinching Greene. He then found Severson cutting backdoor on the Bruins’ goal and scored to make it 1-0 Devils.

The Devils would make it 2-0 before the first intermission when Palmieri scored on the power play at 15:25 from Will Butcher and Brian Boyle. It was set up when former Devil John Moore was called for tripping. On the man advantage, Palmieri took a shot in close that Halak made the initial save on. The puck then hit Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo and rolled up and over Halak, who was down in the butterfly, and in. The Devils now had a 2-0 lead to take into the first break.

On the power play, the Devils were 2-for-4 on the night with three shots. They also had three shorthanded shots on net. The Bruins were held 0-for-2 with three shots on the power play. They also accumulated three shorthanded shots.

Boston got on the board at the 15:07 mark of the second period when Chris Wagner collided with a Devils defender and the Devil went down. This left Wagner all alone to cut in behind the play and take a nice pass from Moore to score into an empty net. Danton Heinen had the secondary assist. The Bruins had cut the Devils’ lead in half. Boston out shot the Devils 19-9 in that second period but Blackwood was fantastic in net to keep the Devils on top.

In the third, at 4:15, Blake Coleman blocked a Torey Krug shot at the point in the Devils’ zone and sped off to collect the loose puck through the neutral zone. He grabbed it, went forehand, backhand on Halak and turned the goalie inside out to give the Devils a 3-1 lead. That goal was unassisted.

At the 7:51 mark, Miles Wood drove to the Boston net, knocking it off its moorings. He was tripped up on the play by Kevan Miller (for which he received a penalty on the play), and the puck ended up in the net. The call on the ice was no goal and that stood under review by Toronto. It turned out the puck had slipped under the side of the goal cage as it was jarred up as Wood bumped into it.

The Devils would get one for real at the 12:43 mark when Nico Hischier scored from Wood and Noesen. That occurred when Noesen won a puck battle along the boards in the Devils’ zone. Wood took it and he and Nico were off with numbers. Wood one-handed it to HIschier, who was cutting through the slot. Nico then was all alone on Halak and roofed it over the prone goalie to give the Devils a commanding 4-1 lead.

Patrice Bergeron would cut the Devils’ lead to two when a Jake DeBrusk shot was redirected by Blackwood off of Bergeron’s shin pad and into the net.

A strange ending to the game came when Boston’s David Backes was called for an illegal check to the head of Coleman at 18:00. This would put the Devils on the man advantage for the remainder of the game. The Bruins pulled Halak to even it up but who else but Coleman scored into an empty net to ice the game for the Devils. His goal was officially a power play goal and gave us our final of 5-2. Halak had been 8-0 at TD Garden so far this season, but that was the end of that streak. The Devils won.

The Devils were out shot 42-33 and won just 44-percent of the game’s faceoffs. They did out hit the Bruins 28-20 and had more blocked shots (19-4) and less giveaways at 11 for the Devils to the B’s 17.

Individually, Andy Greene led the team in ice time (21:48 – 37 seconds on the PP and 1:41 on the PK). Zajac led the forwards with 19:41 (3:35 on the PP and 2:30 on the PK). Shots were led by Pavel Zacha with seven, hits by Brian Boyle and Coleman with four each, blocks by Hischier with three and takeaways by Zajac with four.

Next up, the Devils will return home to take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. We will have that coverage for you here and will also have continuing coverage of the World Juniors later tonight.

2019 World Juniors Open

The 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship got under way yesterday evening in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.

Group A featuring Canada, Denmark, Russia, Czech Republic and Switzerland, is playing at Rogers Arena (the home of the Canucks) in Vancouver. Group B which has Sweden, Finland, the United States, Slovakia and Kazakhstan, is playing in Victoria at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

The Devils have four players representing their organization in the tournament: Ty Smith (Canada), Fabian Zetterlund (Sweden), Aarne Talvitie (Finland) and Akira Schmid (Switzerland). Talvitie is serving as the captain for the Finns, the second straight year that the Devils have a prospect serving as a captain for his country in this tournament. Last season, you will recall, Joey Anderson was captain of the USA.

In addition, some other familiar Devils-related faces involved with this tournament are Tyler Madden of Team USA who is the son of former Devil John “Mad Dog” Madden and Patrik Elias, the Devils legend himself. Madden is a 5-foot, 11-inch, 18-year-old forward who players at Northeastern University. He notched an assist in the Americans’ 2-1 win over Slovakia in yesterday’s action.

Patty is serving as an assistant coach for the Czechs. His team won 2-1 over the Swiss in overtime. Schmid did not play. Switzerland will be playing Canada on December 27.

And speaking of Canada, they were the big winners on the evening, laying a total drubbing on Denmark 14-0. That may seem like running up the score, but remember that this tournament relys heavily on goal differential. You have to score when you can and the Canadians certainly did. Smith had an assist on a third period goal by Maxime Comtois. He also had one shot on goal and was a plus-4 all in 21:17 of total ice time. That led all Canadian skaters in TOI.

In the Canada-Denmark game, Canada’s Morgan Frost had a hat trick, Comtois finished with four goals and goaltender Michael DiPietro made 14 saves to preserve the shutout. Canada peppered Danish goaltending with 45 shots on the night.

In the night cap, Finland and Talvitie took on Sweden and Zetterlund in Group B action. Sweden had not lost in the preliminary round since 2006. Their streak was up to 44 games. Well, make it 45 as they defeated the Finns 2-1. Erik Brannstrom scored a pair of goals for the Swedes with Emil Bemstrom and Adam Boqvist getting the assists on both of them. Zetterlund finished with two shots on net in 8:26 of ice time.

As for the Finnish goal, that was scored by Talvitie who finished off a nice play from Kaapo Kakko. Jesse Ylonen had the other assist. Talvitie’s stat line saw him with the goal in 13:55 of time on ice. It was a timely goal too. One that got Finland going and nearly forced overtime. But the Finns were not able to complete the comeback and Sweden’s streak remains alive for another game.

Next up for these teams, Sweden puts their streak on the line against Slovakia on the 27th and Finland will match up with Kazakhstan on the same day. We will try to integrate some of tomorrow’s updates from this tournament into the Devils versus Boston post. The late game may negate that, however. We will see how coverage will go from here.

Devils Blanked by Blue Jackets Heading into Christmas Break

The Devils were looking to string together two straight wins for the first time since November as the Columbus Blue Jackets came to town in the final game before the NHL’s mandatory Christmas break. It was the second time in four days these two teams had met, with the Jackets having won 2-1 last Thursday at Nationwide Arena. Today, Columbus won 3-0, scoring goals on their first two shots of the game and adding a third in the second period.

The highlight of the day for Devils fans, at least, was that the team was wearing their white, green and red Heritage uniforms. These unis are heavily based on the jerseys the team wore from 1982 to 1992 at the Meadowlands. The last time the team wore these uniforms was actually April 29, 1992 – game six of the Patrick Division Semifinals against the Rangers at Brendan Byrne Arena. They will wear them three more times this season after this.

The Devils lineup remained largely the same as the game versus the Senators, with Mirco Mueller, Stefan Noesen and Egor Yakovlev as the healthy scratches.

The one change was between the pipes. Keith Kinkaid started for the Devils but would only last half the game. He faced 11 shots and stopped eight of them. Following the third Columbus goal 10:47 into the second period, Kinkaid was pulled in favor of Mackenzie Blackwood. Blackwood stopped all nine shots he saw. In goal for the Blue Jackets was Sergei Bobrovsky. The Russian two-time Vezina Trophy winner was simply lights out today. He stopped all 39 Devils shots he faced and was superb for them.

The first goal of the game (and the game winner – his second such in two games against the Devils in less than a week) came off the stick of Cam Atkinson at 4:03 into the game. It was the Jackets’ first shot of the game and came off of a nice backdoor feed from Artemi Panarin. Ryan Murray had the secondary assist. Not only was this the first shot on goal for Columbus, it was also on the Blue Jackets’ first time in the Devils’ zone. One shot, one goal for the Jackets.

One minute and twenty eight seconds later, Danish Devils killer Oliver Bjorkstrand took the Blue Jackets’ second shot on the Devils’ net… and scored. It was a play almost completely identical to Atkinson’s goal with Alexander Wennberg playing the role of Panarin. Zach Werenski had the secondary assist on this goal. Two shots, two goals for the Jackets.

Columbus would end the first period with just four shots on goal, with Kinkaid making his first save on the third shot with about a minute to go in the first period. That save garnered some sarcastic applause from the crowd on hand.

The third goal of the game came off the stick of Panarin, who would be the game’s second star with a goal and an assist (Bobrovsky was the first star with the shutout while Atkinson was the third star with the game winner). This came on a breakaway unassisted on one that should have been stopped by Kinkaid but squeezed through his arm and in instead. It was after that goal that Blackwood came on in relief. Goaltending has been shaky at best for the Devils this year, so we will see where the Devils go after the break.

Special teams was a double edged sword for the Devils this afternoon. They went 0-for-3 on the power play with six shots on goal. At the 16:09 mark of the second, Seth Jones went off for high sticking putting the Devils on the man advantage. Columbus then took a bench minor for too many men on the ice putting the Devils up 5-on-3. During this power play, one of the Jackets’ defenders lost his stick, effectively making it 5-on-2 for the Devils and they still did not score. Chalk that one up to Bobrovsky playing nearly out of his mind.

On the flip side, the Devils kept the Blue Jackets 0-for-4 on the power play with just a single shot. Both teams had a shorthanded shot. So their power play was weak, but the penalty kill was strong, a 50/50 tradeoff for the Devils.

The game would actually end at 4-on-4 when Brett Seney took a goalie interference penalty at 18:03 of the third period and Bobrovsky took a corresponding embellishment penalty.

The Devils out shot the Jackets 39 to 20 in the game while winning 54-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The Devils also out hit Columbus 17-13. Predictably for a John Tortorella-coached team, Columbus had more blocked shots at 13 to the Devils’ seven. The Devils racked up more giveaways at 11 to the Jackets’ three.

Will Butcher led the team in ice time with 22:09 (3:51 on the power play and 1:05 on the PK) while Taylor Hall led all forwards with 21:31 (3:51 of PP time). Ben Lovejoy led in shots with six, hits were led by Miles Wood with five, blocked shots by Andy Greene with two and takeaways by Hall, Brian Boyle, Blake Coleman and Greene who each had one.

Next up, the Christmas break. It will be a good time for the Devils to take some time to rest and regroup and hopefully come out of it refreshed and ready to go. They will face the Bruins up in Boston on Thursday at 7 PM. We will have coverage then for you right here. In the meantime, have a safe and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Devils Win Big Over Sens, 5-2

The Devils played a very good game tonight. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but very, very good. They defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-2 in their first win in the back end of a back-to-back this season in seven tries. The game included one multi point nights for the top line of Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri and one of the wildest sequences leading to a goal that you will ever see.

The win followed some bad news as the Devils placed forward Marcus Johansson, who was just beginning to find his groove, on injured reserve with an upper body injury. He left the game at Columbus last night with the injury and now the team will be without him for some time. With that, John Hynes’ line experiment was put to an abrupt end. Taylor Hall was put back on the top line, reunited with Hischier and Palmieri. All that line did was accumulate nine total points on the evening.

The scratches for the Devils were Mirco Mueller, Egor Yakovlev and Stefan Noesen. Ottawa dressed seven D and 11 forwards.

In goal, the Devils went back to Keith Kinkaid between the pipes after Mackenzie Blackwood made his first start in Columbus. Kinkaid had been pulled in two of his last five starts, especially with the Devils giving up a cumulative 10 goals to two scored in the first period over those games. Tonight, though, he was spot on. He made 25 saves on 27 Senators shots. Facing him was Craig Anderson who made 20 saves on 25 shots. He was yanked in the third period in favor of former Devil Mike McKenna. McKenna stopped all seven of the shots he saw. The Devils finished the game with a total of 32 shots.

Things got off to a fast start as Miles Wood took a goalie interference penalty just 59 seconds into the game. The Devils, however, would strike first. It was Pavel Zacha scoring a shorthanded goal off a breakaway at 2:03 after Brian Boyle got it up to him and he chipped it by the Sens’ Thomas Chabot off the boards to himself and was off to the races. That gave the Devils the early 1-0 lead. From there, they would never look back.

Kyle Palmieri made it 2-0 from Hall and Hischier at 10:54 of the first when the Devils’ relentless forecheck kept the puck in the Senators’ zone and Hall won a puck battle in the near corner. He fed Palmieri at the top of the far faceoff circle and Palmieri sniped one by Anderson to double the New Jersey lead.

The Devils had the two goal lead heading into the first intermission, but if you will recall their debacle of a loss in Ottawa earlier in the season, they also held a two goal lead in that one before being blown out by the Sens.

And the Senators would seem to be back into things when Matt Duchene scored his first of two from Mark Stone and Chabot just 2:20 into the second period on the power play. Wood had taken a high sticking penalty on Ben Harpur at 1:52 to set that up. Overall on special teams, Ottawa was 1-for-5 with two shots on the night. The Devils were 1-for-3 with four power play shots and also four shorthanded shots, including the shorty goal.

The Devils would get that power play goal at the 4:07 mark of the second. It came when Harpur took a high sticking call on Palmieri and on the ensuing man advantage, Hall took a rink-wide pass from Palmieri and skated up the near boards in the Ottawa zone. He faked a drop pass to Will Butcher and elected to shoot, beating Anderson to make it 3-1 Devils.

Following that was one of the craziest and most unlikely goals you will ever see the Devils score. It began in the Devils’ zone. Sami Vatanen stopped a surefire Brady Tkachuk goal by coming across the crease when Kinkaid was down. Nico swept the puck out of the goal crease and it came out to Stone, who coughed the puck up to Palmieri. Palmieri then broke into the Sens’ zone on a 2-on-0 with Hall. He fed Hall the puck and Hall buried it to make it 4-1 New Jersey at the 5:19 mark of the second. Words cannot do this goal justice. If you have not seen it, check it out on YouTube or the NHL website. This was one of the craziest sequences I have ever seen in almost 30 years of following the Devils and the NHL. Just amazing.

The play was briefly reviewed by the situation room in Toronto to see if the puck did indeed cross the line before Vatanen saved it. There was also some concern that Nico had closed his hand on the puck in the crease, which would have been a penalty, but penalties cannot be reviewed by Toronto and I do not believe that Ottawa could have challenged for that. Either way, it did not seem on replay that he closed his hand on the puck anyway. The goal for the Devils stood.

Ottawa would again cut the lead down when they halved it to 4-2. Duchene scored on a delayed penalty against the Devils as the puck pinballed around the Devils zone and Duchene simply shoveled it into the open net. That goal came at 11:53 from Bobby Ryan and Christian Jaros.

The scoring would be rounded out when Nico Hischier joined his linemates in getting a goal at 18:58 of the second period. Hall and Butcher had the assists. It came just after the Devils had killed off a penalty and saw Nico shooting from a sharp angle, beating Anderson short side.

In the end, Nico was named the game’s third star with a goal and an assist, Palmieri was the second star with a goal and two assists while Hall was the first star with a pair of goals and two assists. Not a bad night for a line that would likely have been broken up had Marcus Johansson been good to go.

Statistically, the Devils out shot the Sens 32-27 but won only 48-percent of the game’s faceofffs. They out hit Ottawa 22 to 10 and blocked more shots at 10-4. They also ended up with one more giveaway with four to the Senators’ three.

Individually, Damon Severson was saddled with the big minutes tonight, playing 22:06 total (47 seconds on the power play and 2:43 killing penalties). Travis Zajac led the forwards with 19:54 (2:54 on the PP and 4:35 on the PK). Hall had the most shots of all Devils with six, while Wood (who played a feisty game – including getting a ten minute misconduct penalty at the end of the game when he and Mark Borowiecki squared off to fight but took too long before the linesmen jumped in) led in hits with five. Blocked shots were co-led by Butcher and Ben Lovejoy with two each and takeaways were led by Zajac with three.

Next up, one more before the Christmas break. It will be a home rematch against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday. Puck drop for that game is 12:30 PM in Newark and the Devils will be wearing their white, red and green “Heritage” uniforms for the first of four games this season. We will see you here with coverage of the game shortly after its conclusion.

Devils Edged by Columbus 2-1

In a what has been a rough patch for the Devils, tonight was a bit of a bright spot in another loss. Mackenzie Blackwood, the rookie goaltender who made a relief appearance on Tuesday night against the Maple Leafs, got his first career NHL start tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets and played very well. The difference between the Jackets and the Devils in a 2-1 Columbus victory was a penalty shot goal by one of the Blue Jackets’ best offensive threats. Otherwise, the rookie went virtually toe-to-toe with defending Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Brobrovsky.

Devils coach John Hynes called the loss to Toronto on Tuesday “unacceptable” and promised some changes. Some of those changes included defenseman Steven Santini making his return to the lineup tonight. He had not played in exactly two months, having broken his jaw getting hit by a puck in a game at Philadelphia on October 20. He was back in the lineup and Mirco Mueller and Egor Yakovlev were out on the blue line. Drew Stafford was out up front.

Santini played 12:25 total TOI – including 11 seconds on the power play and 45 seconds on the penalty kill – registering a shot on goal, four hits and a blocked shot.

The other changes were to the lines. Taylor Hall dropped down to the second line, playing with Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman while Marcus Johansson moved up to the top line in his place. Of course, hockey being as unpredictable as it is, Johansson ended up getting hurt in the second period and did not return. Hall then moved back up to the top line with Kyle Palmieri and Nico Hischier.

We talked about Blackwood making his debut tonight, he stopped 36 of 38 Blue Jacket shots and was named the game’s third star. He made a nice stop on Alexander Wennberg after Wennberg gathered the puck off of the end boards and Blackwood had to move side-to-side to make the save, stopping the puck just on the goal line. That play, which occurred early in the third period, would warrant a review from Toronto, but the replay showed that it did not completely cross the line and was no goal. Bobrovsky was his opponent and made 29 saves on 30 shots in being named the game’s second star.

Nick Foligno scored the opening goal of the game, putting a layup into the net after being left all alone on the side of the goal cage. He took a pass from Pierre-Luc Dubois and Seth Jones had the other assist. This goal came after Columbus just created complete chaos in the Devils’ end. Only 4:17 into the game, it was 1-0 Blue Jackets.

The Devils would not register their first shot of the game until a mid-first period breakaway by Miles Wood. It was a slow start for the Devils to say the least.

New Jersey seemed to be down 2-0 when, late in the first, the officials checked to make sure a puck did not go into Blackwood’s net before the goal was dislodged. The replay from Toronto showed that the net was knocked off of its moorings first and it was no goal.

A scrap at the 17:45 mark saw Brett Seney take on the much-larger Brandon Dubinsky. Brian Boyle stepped in to stick up for Seney at the end of the play and ended up taking a roughing penalty against David Savard. The Devils would have to kill that off and they did, keeping Columbus 0-for-4 on the man advantage with ten shots. They also had two shorthanded shots. The Devils were 0-for-2 on the power play with five shots. They had three shorthanded shots too.

The game winning goal came on a penalty shot just 1:15 into the second period. Cam Atkinson had his hands hooked on a clean breakaway by Andy Greene and the penalty shot had to be called. Atkinson then converted, scoring his 20th of the season and making it 2-0 Blue Jackets. Atkinson was named the game’s first star.

The Devils would finally cut the deficit in half at the 10:39 mark of the second when Hall was sprung on a breakaway by a nice pass from Palmieri. Bobrovsky went down very early as he was out of his crease and Hall scored to make it 2-1. This goal was Hall’s 200th career NHL goal, congratulations to him on that milestone.

And that would be it for the scoring. The Devils did seemingly tie things 20 seconds into the third period when Coleman one-timed a pass from Zajac that hit the crossbar and bounced out of the net. Toronto reviewed the goal to see if it did enter the net and come out very fast. Replays showed that it did not, it simply hit the post and came right out. The call on the ice of no goal stood and the Devils were back to the drawing board.

Blackwood would make a nice save to keep the Devils in the game late when he stopped Anthony Duclair with a quick left pad save. He would be pulled with about 2:04 remaining in the game. With the extra attacker (but minus an injured Johansson) the Devils had some chances, including a Palmieri one-timer that, after a scramble in front on the rebound, was reviewed by Toronto to see if it did enter the net. But much like the Coleman review, the call on the ice stood at no goal. Bobrovsky just had a fantastic game.

The Devils were out shot 38 to 30, but won 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs, had 22 hits to the Jackets’ 15 and blocked more shots than Columbus (15 to nine). The Devils also had more giveaways than the Blue Jackets, four to three.

Individually, Will Butcher led everyone in ice time with 23:45 (including 2:01 of PP time) and Zajac led the forwards at 21:14 (2:01 on the PP and 3:39 on the PK). The shots on goal category was led by Palmieri with six, hits were led by Santini’s four, blocks were led by Hall, Ben Lovejoy and Damon Severson with two each and takeaways saw Pavel Zacha net three to lead the team there.

Next up, it’s the second half of a back-to-back as the Devils return home tomorrow to take on the Ottawa Senators. New Jersey has not won the second half of a back-to-back so far this year. Will the seventh time be the charm? That game is at 7 PM tomorrow night and we will have it for you right here.

Devils Demolished by Leafs, 7-2

The gap between the Devils and some of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference has never been more apparent than the games between them and Tampa Bay and against Toronto. Tonight they fell 7-2 to the Maple Leafs at the Prudential Center.

The Devils had one subtraction from their lineup and two additions. The team put goaltender Cory Schneider on injured reserve with an abdominal strain. In his place, Mackenzie Blackwood was recalled from AHL Binghamton. He would see action tonight following a potential injury to Keith Kinkaid that bears keeping an eye on. The other addition was Taylor Hall returning to the lineup tonight after missing two games with a lower body injury.

Toronto was coming in with two faces the Devils did not see in their trip there on November 9. Auston Matthews was injured when New Jersey visited the Leafs last and William Nylander was still holding out as a restricted free agent. Matthews is now healthy and Nylander signed a contract on December 1. They would both be in the lineup tonight for Toronto. Lucky Devils.

For the Devils, with Hall slotting back in up front, Drew Stafford was back as a healthy scratch joining d-men Steven Santini and Egor Yakovlev.

In goal, the Danish goalie Frederik Andersen went for the Maple Leafs, making 27 saves on 29 shots against. For the Devils, Keith Kinkaid started and played the first two periods, making 16 saves on 21 shots. He collided with Ben Lovejoy midway through the second and, though he made the save on the play, seemed a bit shaken up. That might not have been the reason he gave the net up to Blackwood, but it could have contributed. Blackwood, as mentioned, came on in the third period, making his NHL debut. He stopped eight of the ten shots he faced, including his first NHL save: a save on a breakaway by Zach Hyman. Not a bad start. He also became the first Devils goalie since Martin Brodeur to wear the number 29 in a game.

The Devils fell behind early, at 6:01 when John Tavares scored from Nazem Kadri and Matthews. Nico Hischier opted not to shoot on a 2-on-1 just prior to the play and had the pass broken up by the Leafs. Toronto then went down the ice with a 3-on-1 when Tavares scored. It was 1-0 Toronto.

The lead would double to 2-0 1:57 later when Matthews scored a controversial goal unassisted. He pushed Damon Severson into Kinkaid and, when Kinkaid was unable to hold on to a puck, Matthews was right there on the doorstep, all alone to sweep it in. Severson had tried to clear the puck from the crease with his hand, but only served to give it directly to Matthews. The Devils used their coach’s challenge, alleging goalie interference. The call on the ice of good goal stood. The explanation was that because Severson could play the puck, incidental contact with the goalie was allowed and it was a good goal.

One thing that Ken Daneyko brought up on the MSG+ broadcast was that Matthews pushing Severson in the first place could have been interference on Severson since he did not have the puck. But that went uncalled and the goal stood, it was now 2-0 Leafs.

The ageless Patrick Marleau would make it 3-0 at 13:38 when he scored from Kadri (who ended the game with three assists and was named the game’s third star) and Travis Dermott. The Devils could not clear the puck from the zone and Kadri centered the puck to Marleau. His initial shot was saved by Kinkaid but Marleau put the rebound by to triple their lead.

The Devils would get on the board late in the first period when Sami Vatanen scored from Brian Boyle to make it 3-1 at 18:44. Vatanen let a shot go from the point that just cleanly beat Andersen under the crossbar and down. It was a cannon of a shot and seemed to give the Devils some hope as the game was following a similar pattern to Friday’s comeback versus the Golden Knights.

The pattern looked to followed even closer when Mitch Marner scored just 1:45 into the second period. He scored when Tavares hit the crossbar and the rebound came right to him. The disappointing thing about this goal is that the Devils had spent the first 1:30 or so of the second period applying pressure in the Toronto zone but could not score. This goal put the Devils down by three again at 4-1.

With that assist, Tavares had his second point of the night, a goal and that assist. He was named the game’s second star. Auston Matthews, also with a goal and an assist, was the game’s first star.

Morgan Rielly made it 5-1 with 0.8 seconds remaining in the period when he scored on a nice shot from the point that beat Kinkaid clean. Kadri and Connor Brown had the assists on that goal. The blowout was on.

The Devils would gain a bit of retribution when Nico Hischier scored at the 14:47 mark of the third. Hall won a puck battle behind the Leafs’ net, came out from behind and whipped a pass to Nico. Hischier did not miss on this one, burying it to make the score 5-2. Kyle Palmieri had the secondary assist. There was little celebration on the Devils side of things, however.

Tyler Ennis would add two goals to cap things off for the Leafs, scoring at 16:28 from Brown and Par Lindholm and at 18:30 from Jake Gardiner and Brown to make it 6-2 and then 7-2, which was our final. Those were the first two goals let up by Blackwood in his NHL career.

So for the Devils, it was not a good night to say the least. On special teams, both teams were 0-for-3 on the power play as the Devils did not register a shot with the extra skater. The Leafs had one shot on the power play and one shorthanded. New Jersey actually finished the game on the power play as Toronto was called for delay of game with just about a minute to go in the game.

Statistically, the Maple Leafs out shot the Devils 31-29 while the Devils won 53-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The Devils also out hit Toronto 14-6. The Leafs had more blocked shots (nine to the Devils’ six) and the Devils had twice as many giveaways at 12 to the Leafs’ six.

Individually, Vatanen led all Devils skaters with 22:13 TOI (including 2:42 of power play time and 1:32 of PK time). Travis Zajac led all forwards with 19:05 of time on ice (2:12 on the PP/ 3:23 killing penalties). Shots on goal were led by Miles Wood with five, hits were led by Blake Coleman with four, blocked shots by Severson with two and takeaways by Hall with two.

Next up, the Devils will travel to Ohio on Thursday to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Devils have now lost ten of their last 12 games and will look to right the ship in Columbus. That will be a tough hill to climb as the Jackets are one of the better teams in the Metropolitan Division. Puck drop for that game is 7 PM and we will have coverage for you right here.

Devils Fall in Shootout in Nashville

Well, that was some kind of hockey game!

The Devils and the Nashville Predators put on a show of tight-checking defensive hockey with spurts of end-to-end action that was just incredible. In the end, the Devils came back to gather a point only to fall in a shootout, 2-1.

About 24 hours after Nico Hischier became the youngest player in Devils history to score an overtime goal (at 19 years and 344 days according to MSG’s Erika Wachter) in the comeback win yesterday over Vegas, the Devils were right back at it at Bridgestone Arena. This was the sixth back-to-back of the season for the Devils and they have yet to win the second game of one this year.

For the second game in a row, the Devils would be without Taylor Hall. He is still suffering from lower body soreness. Steven Santini and Egor Yakovlev were the other scratches for New Jersey as they went with largely the exact lineup from last night against the Golden Knights.

But if the Devils had no Taylor Hall, they would get no sympathy from the Predators. Nashville is still missing some good firepower: Viktor Arvidsson, PK Subban and Filip Forsberg to name a few.

In goal, after Cory Schneider’s debacle in his first home start yesterday, the Devils went back to Keith KInkaid tonight and he was largely brilliant. He made 27 saves on 28 Preds shots and four saves in six rounds of the shootout. Opposing him was “the best backup in the business” in Juuse Saros. He stopped 33 of 34 Devils shots and made a further four saves in the shootout (the Devils had one miss).

Nashville was hot early. They hit the post on their first power play of the night at about the midway point of the first period. On the night, the Preds were 0-for-2 with no shots on the power play while the Devils were 0-for-4 with four shots. Both teams also had a shorthanded shot as well on the special teams.

The Predators finally broke the seal on the game at the 18:43 mark of the first period when Frederick Gaudreau scored from Mikka Salomaki and Mattias Ekholm. On that goal, Kinkaid made the initial save but kicked the rebound into the slot for Gaudreau all alone. The initial shot from Salomaki was from an impossible angle that somehow made its way towards Kinkaid. It was now 1-0 Nashville and in a building like the Bridgestone Arena, where the fans can get loud and really affect the game, that was not a good thing.

The Devils would have about 1:30 of power play time on fresh ice in the second period when Kevin Fiala took a high sticking penalty on Brett Seney. They obviously did not score but it was not just the Devils’ power play that struggled today.

At 10:37 of the second, Ben Lovejoy took a hooking penalty and the Predators seemingly tied it on a Roman Josi goal. Kinkaid immediately went to captain Andy Greene and told him to tell the bench that he was interfered with. Coach John Hynes decided to use the team’s coach’s challenge to see if goaltender interference did occur. The replay showed that Colton Sissons was cutting through the crease and did, in fact, bump into Kinkaid’s glove hand, not allowing the goalie to get set for the shot. The call on the ice of a good goal was reversed and the goal was called back. The game was still 1-0 Nashville.

And that is how it would stay until late in the third. There were some great chances, including midway through through the third period when Marcus Johansson and Nico Hischier broke in on a 2-on-0 on Saros. Johansson tried to pass to Nico only to have the play broken up by a backchecking Nick Bonino. That led to a partial breakaway at the other end that Kinkaid had to stop.

Kinkaid was pulled with about 2:15 left in regulation and the Devils were in for some late minute magic again. This time off the stick of Brian Boyle. It happened when Jesper Bratt made a nice one-handed effort to get the puck over the Nashville blue line to Johansson. Johansson then skated it up the right wing. He fired on net and the rebound came right to Boyle in the slot. Much like Gaudreau’s goal earlier, he made no mistake and buried it behind Saros to tie it up at one with about 1:31 remaining in the game.

When the buzzer sounded on regulation, we were off to overtime for a second consecutive night. And at three-on-three, both teams just let it all hang out. Back-and-forth, end-to-end action that decided nothing thanks to some stellar goaltending and defensive play by both teams. And when OT could not decide things, it was off to the skills competition. The Predators have not lost a game to an Eastern Conference opponent so far this year and things would not change here.

Kinkaid began the shootout with a save on Kyle Turris. Kyle Palmieri went first for the Devils in the bottom of the first and scored. Ryan Ellis evened things out in the top of the next round when he beat Kinkaid. Drew Stafford was then stopped by Saros. In the next round, Calle Jarnkrok was stopped by Kinkaid and Boyle by Saros. Fiala was stopped by Kinkaid next and Bratt missed the net. In the fifth round, Kinkaid saved a shot by Craig Smith and Saros stoned Hischier. Ryan Johansen finally broke through in the sixth round for the Predators and the game was on John Quenneville’s stick. He could not score and that was that, as Nashville pulled out the extra point.

In the game overall, the Devils won 48-percent of the faceoffs, were out hit 34-12 and the Preds had more blocked shots at 15 to 10. Nashville also finished with more giveaways (15 to 12). The three stars were all from the Predators: Saros was the first star while Johansen was the second and Gaudreau was the third.

Individually for the Devils, Sami Vatanen was back to being the workhorse with 25:28 of total ice time (including 4:02 on the power play and 1:43 on the penalty kill). Hischier led the forwards with 21:47 total time (logging 3:33 on the PP and nine seconds on the PK). Vatanen also led in shots on goal with five while hits were led by Vatanen and Brett Seney, who each had two apiece. Greene led in blocked shots with five and takeaways were led at one by Stafford, Blake Coleman and Lovejoy.

Next up, the Devils come back home on Tuesday for an early week tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That game is another stiff challenge and puck drop is at 7 PM on the 18th. We will, of course, have that for you right here.

Devils Complete Comeback, Defeat Golden Knights in OT

In what was a wild game at The Rock last night, the Devils finally won a game in extra time, defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 5-4 in the team’s second meeting ever in Newark.

It was a crazy game that involved the Devils starting goalie being chased before the first period was even over and an overtime goal that would be reviewed before the game was finally ruled over.

The Devils would be without their biggest star for the game. Taylor Hall missed due to “lower body soreness” as he left practice early yesterday and this morning with the injury. Stefan Noesen was also placed on injured reserve. In the MSG+ pregame, it was said that he was suffering from an illness. Steven Santini and Egor Yakovlev were the other scratches. Mirco Mueller slotted back in on defense while John Quenneville was recalled from Binghamton to fill in up front.

The goalie matchup saw Cory Schneider start for the Devils against Marc-Andre Fleury. Schneider faced seven shots, letting in three of them. Keith Kinkaid came in in relief with about ten minutes to play in the first period. He stopped 14 of the 15 shots that he saw. Vegas ended the game with a total of 22 shots on goal. Fleury stopped 37 of the Devils’ 42 shots. You read that right. The Devils peppered Fleury with almost twice as many shots as the Knights fired at Devils goaltending.

But, as mentioned, early on, the Golden Knights scored early and often. Alex Tuch scored at 1:19 of the first from Oscar Lindberg and Nate Schmidt. That gave Vegas a 1-0 lead on just two shots on goal. William Karlsson found the back of the net a few minutes later at 7:45 from Jonathan Marchessault and Brayden McNabb. That made it 2-0. William Carrier would put Vegas up 3-0 at the 9:23 mark of the first from Ryan Reaves on a goal that kind of handcuffed Cory from a few feet out and that he ended up knocking into his own net with his catching glove. That was the goal that chased Schneider back to the locker room.

Vegas nearly scored on Kinkaid late in the first when the puck was ruled to not have crossed the goal line completely. Credit Kyle Palmieri with clearing the puck out from behind Kinkaid. The play was reviewed, but the call on the ice stood as no goal.

It was an almost insurmountable 3-0 Vegas lead heading into the second. But the Devils would begin to chip away. It began when New Jersey got on the board. Just 2:28 into the new period, Colin Miller took an interference call against Quenneville. That set up a Devils power play and Travis Zajac would connect at 2:59. It came when Jesper Bratt found Marcus Johansson down low below the Vegas goal line. He tic-tac-toed it to Zajac, set up in the slot, and Zajac scored. That made it 3-1.

But just after that goal was scored, Palmieri was nabbed for slashing Reilly Smith at 3:24. It was a somewhat weak call to say the least, but it stood and the Devils were going to have to kill a penalty off. It would only take 33 seconds on the ensuing man advantage for Karlsson to make it 4-1. As the Devils’ goal was being announced over the PA system, Karlsson scored his 13th from Smith and Marchessault.

Overall, on the power play, the Devils were 1-for-5 with seven shots while the Golden Knights were 1-for-3 with three shots (all on Kinkaid). The Devils were down by three in the game again. But amazingly, the comeback was about to begin.

At the 10:21 mark of the second, Miles Wood cut the Vegas lead in half when he scored from Blake Coleman and Zajac. It happened when the puck pin-balled around the Knights’ goal mouth before finally ending up on the stick of Wood in the slot. He snapped off a shot that beat Fleury glove side to make it 4-2 Vegas.

In the third period, Kyle Palmieri would draw the Devils to within one when he scored unassisted at the 6:24 mark. That one came when Vegas won the draw deep in their defensive zone, but could not corral the puck. Palmieri single-handedly then jumped on the loose puck and, with Deryk Engelland draped all over him, scored on a wraparound. That one made it 4-3.

The Devils would tie things up at the 14:55 mark when Brett Seney picked a great time to score his third career NHL goal, unassisted to tie things up at four apiece. This one occurred when the Devils collapsed down low, forcing a scramble in front of the Vegas net before the puck was accidentally swept behind Fleury by Knights defenseman Nick Holden. Amazingly and against all odds, the Devils had tied it up.

But overtime has been no sure thing for New Jersey as they had yet to win one this season once regulation ended.

They would waste no time tonight, however. Just 41 seconds into the OT, Nico Hischier scored from Johansson to give the Devils their first overtime win of the 2018-19 season. It happened when Nico and Johansson criss-crossed into the Vegas zone, Johansson fed Hischier on a cut towards the net and Nico shot, but the rebound was accidentially put into his own net by Karlsson as he was trying to clear. The Devils had done it and without one of their best overtime performers too, in Hall.

It was a seemingly hard-earned two points that were in jeopardy of being taken away. The goal was reviewed by Toronto to see if the Devils had gone in offside. The call on the ice – good goal – ended up standing and the Devils were given the victory. It was a good thing too, since the Golden Knights had completely left the ice just after the goal was scored. Should they have had to have been called back out of the locker room, it would have been a strange sight.

Hischier was named the game’s first star, Zajac the second and Vegas’ Karlsson the third.

So, in getting the win, the Devils outshot the Knights 42-22, won 57-percent of the game’s faceoffs and had more giveaways at nine to the Knights’ four. Vegas out hit the Devils 15-12 and blocked more shots at 11-8.

Individually, Damon Severson led all Devils skaters with 23:08 of ice time (4:42 on the power play, 48 seconds shorthanded) as his role continues to grow more and more. Hischier led the forwards with 19:47 (4:24 on the PP and 31 seconds on the PK). Palmieri led in shots on goal with five, Coleman led in hits with four, Andy Greene led in blocks with two and takeaways were led by Zajac, Ben Lovejoy and Sami Vatanen, who each had one.

Next up, it is the back half of another back-to-back as the team travels to Nashville to take on the Predators in less than 24 hours after I post this. That game is at 8 PM tomorrow and we will, of course, have the recap for you right here.